Tax breaks are part of doing business anymore

By: 
Steve Lyon
A manufacturing business that could bring 35 or so jobs to the Weiser area has asked for a tax break from the county.
 Washington County commissioners will take up the company’s request to waive property taxes for five years at a public hearing on May 6. Members of the community can offer their input. 
 Anymore, offering some sort of incentives – reductions in property taxes, sales taxes or otherwise – both at the state and county level, is par for the course when it comes to doing business.
 The state commerce department has a number of incentives to offer businesses moving to Idaho or expanding that qualify in the amount of money they invest and the number of jobs they create.
 In a slick marketing brochure, the state highlights what is available, such as new jobs tax credits, a real property improvement corporate tax credit, tax rebates and the list of incentives goes on. 
 At the county level the state allows commissioners to exempt property taxes for new businesses.  Commissioners can authorize a full or partial property tax exemption for up to five years.
 If you’re a business owner considering relocating, of course you are going to shop around for the best deal on incentives. Who wouldn’t? It’s show me the money time.
 It’s a competitive playing field out there and states that don’t offer much in the way of incentives are at a distinct disadvantage. You bet Oregon, Nevada and other neighboring states have a plethora of incentive packages to offer businesses looking to locate. They roll out a red carpet for business, metaphorically speaking.
 I’ve heard all the arguments, both pro and con, on giving businesses tax breaks. Some support the concept and some think it’s a giveaway to corporations.
 Those in favor say it’s worth waiving property tax dollars for a few years to get the longterm economic benefit that a new business will bring in jobs, investment and a bigger tax base.  
 The employees of the business will reside locally, shop locally and spend locally. Those future dollars are worth more than the tax breaks. It’s growth and in rural Idaho that’s a whole lot better than stagnation.
 Those opposed to tax breaks for businesses cite the burden it places on taxpayers. Who pays for the infrastructure that a new business uses – the roads and bridges, the fire and police protection? Taxing districts like schools and highway districts see the use but don’t see the tax revenue.
 The county has used the state law that allows commissioners to give property tax exemptions to new or expanding businesses once before. The investment threshold for companies to qualify for tax breaks was lowered a couple of years ago to $500,000, at the behest of rural counties. 
 In May of 2017, commissioners, citing the desire for good jobs and economic growth, approved tax exemptions for Intrinsic Organics, a processor of a proprietary crop called SunSpuds. 
 Intrinsic invested heavily in the Weiser Industrial Park in buildings and processing equipment. Company officials said they planned to spend $5.5 million in phase one.
 The county waived 100 percent of taxes on new improvements and equipment for three years and 50 percent for the following two years.
 It’s also an issue of fairness now. If the county has waived taxes for one company that meets the investment threshold it seems like it must do the same for all.
 I view giving tax breaks to business as an investment now that will pay the bigger dividends later. 
 Steve Lyon is the editor of the Weiser Signal American. Contact him at scoop@signalamerican.com.

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Signal American

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